The Two Most Important Words

In this world of hustle and bustle, email and text messaging, an important piece of the job search puzzle is forgotten these days – the thank you note. Those two words – thank you – can often make the difference between getting the job and being passed over. In every survey, over and over, hiring managers and human resource professionals say that they give more consideration to the candidate who sends a thank you note. If the competition is tight between two candidates, that one little action taken by the candidate can mean the difference in getting the job.

Why do job seekers forget to write thank you notes? Part of it is misinformation. Many think that hiring managers consider it an old-fashioned practice. Fearing they may be viewed as ‘behind the times’, job seekers forego writing a thank you note after an interview. Reality is that hiring managers pay attention to such things and view thank you notes as a plus. If a candidate is considerate of protocols and manners during the hiring process, more than likely that candidate would show consideration and manners to customers and vendors as an employee.

Thank you notes are beneficial all the way around. They satisfy job search protocols, they demonstrate your communication abilities to the hiring manager, and they can serve as fantastic follow-up tools to the interview. Often, a job candidate is asked a question during the interview and because of nerves or ill-preparedness flubs the answer. The thank you note provides an opportunity to go back to that question and give a better answer. For example, a candidate could say something like “I’ve been thinking about your question concerning challenges I’ve faced in project management and I would like to add a few additional thoughts. There was a project involving a critical account…” and then go on to describe the challenge faced and the solution he came up with.

Many candidates feel a hand-written note is what is meant by a thank you note, but I’ve generally found one that is typed is better, especially if you have bad handwriting. A typeset letter allows you to do more follow-up and provide further evidence of job performance than a hand-written note. You can always hand-write a post-script at the bottom for a personal touch or use more casual stationery than you did for the resume to give it visual character.

I’ll always remember the client I had who had an interview with a company he really wanted to work for. During the ice-breaking part of the interview, the hiring manager commented on a sick African violet she had on her desk, stating she wasn’t sure what the little white specks it had on it were. After the interview, the client sent a thank you note and hand-wrote a post script at the bottom that said, “P.S. I looked up diseases of African violets in my houseplant book and I believe the problem your plant has is called mealy bugs. The solution is to dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and touch each one to kill it. Hope that helps!”

This postscript won the client the job. The hiring manager later said that she was impressed that the candidate not only paid attention, but cared enough (and was curious enough) to look up the problem. She said that showed he would be a problem-solver on the job, too, and not just let things slide.

So don’t neglect those two little words – thank you – in your job search. They could be the most valuable communication in the whole process.

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